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Businesses Education United States Science

The Real Science Gap 618

Posted by Soulskill
from the blaming-the-schools-is-so-2005 dept.
walterbyrd writes "This article attempts to explain why the US is struggling in its competition with other countries in the realm of scientific advancement. 'It's not insufficient schooling or a shortage of scientists. It's a lack of job opportunities. Americans need the reasonable hope that spending their youth preparing to do science will provide a satisfactory career.' I can hardly believe that somebody actually understands the present situation. It continues, 'The current approach — trying to improve the students or schools — will not produce the desired result, the experts predict, because the forces driving bright young Americans away from technical careers arise elsewhere, in the very structure of the US research establishment. For generations, that establishment served as the world’s nimblest and most productive source of great science and outstanding young scientists. Because of long-ignored internal contradictions, however, the American research enterprise has become so severely dysfunctional that it actively prevents the great majority of the young Americans aspiring to do research from realizing their dreams.'"
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The Real Science Gap

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  • Nice to see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheEvilOverlord (684773) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:05PM (#32568874) Journal

    ...that someone is raising the real issue. I'm in the UK and studied for a science degree and from people I still know who graduated, only one of them is actually working in science now (5 years later). Of other friends I've made in the field most have left their science jobs. The most recent has just retrained as an accountant. She got made redundant from her previous job with a big pharma as they moved her whole lab out to china where they said they could have 6 equally qualified people for what they were paying her. People aren't stupid, they aren't going to study for something where there's no jobs, or what jobs do exist are all low paid rubbish with no chance of advancement. They'll all go become accountants and lawyers. Say hello to globalisation...

  • what gap? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:09PM (#32568940) Homepage

    It is assumed (when asking for money from the government) that there is some terrible gap in education--that America is doomed because somebody's program isn't funded enough. But evidence of this is never given.

    Are our universities bad? Obviously not, as foreigners do everything they can to get into them. Are our primary schools bad? Doesn't look like it; foreign students make cheating a science just to keep up at the university level.

    If our science students can't find jobs, the problem is a GLUT of science education. Perhaps we should focus more on trade schools than churning out more unemployed bio and physics majors.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:10PM (#32568956)
    Two factors immediately come to my mind: military spending and the reduction of the progressive tax burden. The way I see it, there just is not as much money for the government to throw at science, with the exception of military science. Now, it is true that military science has produced a number of useful non-military results, but there are some fields that have not really been advanced by spending on military science -- the pentagon has little interest in funding research into coral reef development or studies on dung beetles (I write this wondering if someone is going to pull up a paper on one of those topics that happened to be funded by DARPA). It is also true that government spending is not the be-all and end-all of science funding, and that private sources can also fund science, but that is not a solution in and of itself -- corporate funded science suffers from a problem of biased results, and science-as-a-charity is not very sustainable (there really are not enough rich patrons willing to pay for research, especially for topics that are not "trendy").
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:10PM (#32568960)

    For grad school in the sciences, loan debt is uncommon--- students typically get paid stipends as research assistants or teaching assistants, which cover full tuition plus a modest salary (~$16k-30k or so, depending on field and institution). Of course, students often have undergrad loan debt, but I don't think grad school makes it worse at least.

    I think the biggest problem is, as you point out, post-PhD. There are too many PhDs being produced relative to good research jobs, so typically one has to do several postdocs, might have to take a lecturer position somewhere, etc., in hopes of eventually, maybe when you're 40 or something, getting a tenure-track faculty position. Oh, and that's a tenure-track position, which is basically 6-7 years of probation (but at least you're getting paid well at that point).

    Not entirely sure how to fix that. Making PhD studies themselves more attractive won't fix the problem, I don't think; if anything, it'll make it worse, by encouraging the production of even more PhDs who there aren't research jobs for. Somehow the post-grad-school part has to be fixed. There have to be more research positions, either in academia, in industry, or at government labs. Or, if we aren't going to open up more of the top-level (tenured-faculty-tier) types of positions, at least there have to be more attractive lower-level ones, something better than a post-doc. Maybe one where you still work in someone else's lab (i.e. you aren't the lab head), but you get paid better and have somewhat more research freedom. But that requires funding, too.

  • by I(rispee_I(reme (310391) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:16PM (#32569072) Journal

    They can coexist, as oil and water can coexist. The pertinent question, as the kids are asking these days, is "Will it blend?"

    The answer is a definite no, religious apologists aside.* By definition, faith is belief in something without evidence. Science requires the collection and examination of evidence.

    Also, this "kind of thinking" is the best policy to guard against a dark age, where every scientific discovery required a "look how this glorifies the creator" clause.

    *Spare me the list of notable scientists who also held superstitious beliefs. Isaac Newton was interested in alchemy, but that does not mean his more legitimate accomplishments are dependent on the legitimacy of alchemy.

  • by simonbp (412489) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:20PM (#32569140) Homepage

    While there is always much waving of hands and gnashing of teeth about it, the reality is that the USA by far leads the world in science. And speaking as a science grad student, it's much easier to get into science here than anywhere else in the western world. I know plenty of foreign grad students in the US, but almost no US students that had any motivation to study overseas. Personally, even though I'm originally from Canada, I have no plans to go back, because it's so much easier to get funded as a scientist here.

    It seems to me most of the of the people who complain about the "science gap" are those who aren't actually working in the field...

  • by line-bundle (235965) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:25PM (#32569234) Homepage Journal

    The best link I can find for the article is

    http://www.marinetech.org/OSTO/documents/Job%20Prospects%20for%20Science%20Grads%20CHE%2021Sep07.pdf [marinetech.org]

    The original article is behind a paywall unfortunately

    http://chronicle.com/article/The-Real-Science-Crisis-Bleak/29178 [chronicle.com]

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday June 14, 2010 @02:48PM (#32569578)

    Where shall we have lunch?

    Just an idea from the outfield: maybe an added reason is that it's so much harder to make a contribution these days? We've gone from "Ow! Fire hot!" to needing a PhD or more just to achieve parity with the state of the art in some fields of science.

    Engineering isn't much better- from spark gaps to iPhones in about a century.

    We might need to start kids down the science path as early as the first grade, or come up with some radical new method of teaching/learning.

    Ah, I'm just babbling. Ignore me.

  • Cause meet effect (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:01PM (#32569790)

    When you have a educational system and culture that shields people from the effects of their bad decisions, even refutes the notion of causality, why would kids be encouraged to enter a field where causality is king? Isn't Obama going to pay their mortgage for them? Won't Al Gore save them from Global Warming? Won't giving $10 to a church save them from hell?

  • by Calsar (1166209) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:04PM (#32569838) Homepage

    My wife got a Ph.D. in molecular biology. She did a postdoc and NIH and then started to look for job. She wanted to be a professor at a University. After talking to some of the recruiters at Universities we found out they were getting hundreds of resumes for each position. In addition as the parent post points outs research is brutal. You constantly struggle for grant money and tenure is pretty much a thing of the past. Universities want you to come in with grants, they take half the money, then they boot you out if you lose your grants. It's a very stressful environment to be in. Another thing I ran into while doing research was that the number of teaching positions at Universities has gone up about 50% since 1960, however the number of Ph.D.s has gone up 10,000%. Of course there are commercial research positions as well, but at least in biotech there is a lot of turn over as companies come and go. She has friends that get laid off every couple years and spend six months to a year looking for a new job. There were also a lot of sales jobs where you go around and sell equipment to companies, which she didn't want to do. My wife eventually ended up with desk job with Genebank at NIH and no longer does research. Note that she was 31 by the time she got her first real job. That's a lot of time to put into education for not much reward. She is especially annoyed that she will never make as much money as I do in IT even though she has a doctorate degree and I have a master's in CS. We have encouraged our son not to into science.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:28PM (#32570216) Homepage

    The IEEE points out that, at present, only about 1/3 of electrical engineers have electrical engineering jobs. They also point out that in 1970, electrical engineers and doctors made about the same amount of money.

    Lawyers, though, are starting to get hit. Outsourcing of legal work [pangea3.com] is now available.

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:3, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:32PM (#32570294) Homepage

    As the old saying goes, "a fool and his money... quickly part ways" or something along those lines. The truth behind this is pretty self-evident. If you have money, you need to make it work for you or it will run out. Like it or not, we have a money system in place. If it isn't working for you, then it will disappear sooner rather than later. At the very least, you should buy something that will make you money. This could be a small business like a McDonald's franchise or some sort of investment portfolio. And in either case, if you aren't working it or otherwise paying attention to what's going on with it, you stand to lose even that.

    You can say that you will not work another day in your life, but either you are planning to budget your annuity and your taxes or you will end up spending everything at once. A million dollars isn't as much money as you think it is. You could live on it for a while but then it will be gone... in probably about 5 to 6 years if you live on a budget. Taxes and expenses will eat any amount of money over time.

    But you are right, 99% of the planet would do the same. This is why 99% of the planet is poor while 1% has all the wealth.

  • by Midnight's Shadow (1517137) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:33PM (#32570328)

    I realize reading the article is hard, difficult and long but at least it isn't broken up into many different pages but it is worth reading. Trust me, I did.

    However as someone actually dealing with the crap associated with the sciences, it is dead on in the things it address. Why bother spending many lonely nights working on home work when you could be out getting laid in college? Why go into grad school to spend 6-10 years learning more about your field when you could actually be earning more money by not doing so? And lets not forget the 4-6 years of marking time in a postdoc position where you're basically the lab grunt to pad out your resume so you may have a chance at a position down the line. This is then followed by 5-6 years of probation before you can get tenure if you're lucky but more then likely you will end up marking more time before you even get a tenure track position. Then you spend the rest of your career fighting for funding to pay for your research and more suckers...er grad students and postdocs and never actually doing science again.

    People go into science because they love it but it gets quickly destroyed because they realize that all science requires a community, expensive journals, massive amounts of time, politics and lots of other bullshit. If you haven't been through it or are going through it, you have no fucking clue.

    You want to know why colleges have art history departments? It is so that those sports stars have easy majors to pass so they can play. It is because many students realized that it doesn't matter what the degree is in only that they have a degree for a job and who wants to study something difficult when there is something easy.

    The only way to get the best and brightest to go into the sciences is to make sure they know there are job opportunities available for them that are worth taking. I know I sure in the hell didn't spend 4 years in college and 6 years in grad school doing physics to be making NIH standard ($37k/year) which is only slightly higher then what my high school dropout of a brother pulls in doing construction work for a guy he meet at a 7-11.

  • Re:Don't we? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DeadDecoy (877617) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:37PM (#32570388)

    it's ultimately the shareholders who tacitly approve of the CEO/BoD because they just watch to see if their stock goes up every single quarter.

    Day traders absolutely ruin this theory. People who try to milk money out of the system are responsible for some of the erratic shifts in the market. I sometimes wonder what would happen if traders were forced to own a stock for a week to a month before selling; would that stabilize the markets, as they'd need to look for less risky ventures?

  • by ph1ll (587130) <`ph1ll1phenry' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:43PM (#32570496)

    I agree.

    Assertion: history shows that using cheap labor stifles scientific development. Here are some examples:

    • Hero of Alexander [wikipedia.org] had a working steam engine as early as the 3rd Century BC. But in a society where slave labor was plentiful, there was no need to refine the invention.
    • The first commercially successful steam engines started to appear in the Industrial Revolution in England - where slavery was made illegal at about the same time (1772) [wikipedia.org] (although sadly not in its colonies).
    • The South in the American civil war was poorer that the industrial North *because* not despite of slavery. With slaves, there was no need to industrialize.
    • The main reason Japan has not extended the automation that, for instance, revolutionized the automobile industry in the 70s and 80s is that it's cheaper to employ an army of Chinese workers.

    What do we learn from this? That using cheap labor is short-termism at the expense of our development. Three of my four examples use the extreme examples of slavery, but the principle is the same. If anybody has counter-examples, I'd be pleased to see them.

  • by DogDude (805747) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:47PM (#32570558) Homepage
    I don't know if I'd call programming "science". As a former programmer, I'd call it a skilled trade. There's still plenty of real computer science going on in the US, from what I can tell.
  • Re:Don't we? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AndersOSU (873247) on Monday June 14, 2010 @03:54PM (#32570662)

    We used to have an economy that wasn't so beholden to quarterly earnings reports that businesses actually invested in technologies that couldn't reasonably be expected to bring profits for a decade+.

    Gone are the days of Bell Labs.

    I have a degree in engineering and worked in a R&D department of a company who not only built it's (now fading) empire on pure science. In reality, they had been cutting their R&D budget for decades, and the corporate demographic is extremely bimodal with experts with 30+years of experience who are set to retire at one end and newbies with 10- years experience with no loyalty (like me) at the other, and nothing in between. When the boomers finally start retiring en masse so much institutional knowledge will be lost I don't think this 200 year old company is going to make it through the next 30.

    Add to that the prevalent corporate notion that only PhDs can do research and I can easily see that structural problems will handicap the US' continued scientific ascendancy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:00PM (#32570742)

    It requires working long hours, frequently 7 days per week, for little pay (NIH stipends for graduate students are around $20'000), and in a highly stressful environment (those who've done research know how emotionally crushing doing scientific research can often be), just to become a sub-$40k post-doc for another decade thereafter,

    Well this is really field specific. My current postdoc pays me around $60,000 and after summer salary from grants I make somewhere in the realm of $75,000. I also have both computer equipment and travel expenses covered. In addition, I only have to be somewhere two days a week and I work from home the rest of the time. In the summer I tend to relax and go to a few international conferences while spending the rest of the time at home with my family.

    There are some rather nice perks to the academic life. However, the competition for the best positions is rather strong.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:03PM (#32570794) Journal

    The problem is, not everyone is cut our for science.

    From a young age, about 4, once I got my hands on a screw driver set, everything that could be taken apart was. I wanted to learn how it worked. My friends did not care. They wanted matchbox cars, then RC cars. I got Lincoln Logs, Transformers, Capsella, Erector sets, Robotech models and eventually a computer. In 1990, I got a IBM PC (8088) and went to town. I spent thousands of hours learning how to "make it work" (programming) while other boys were out pursuing girls. I started wrenching on engines about the same time... I never had friends because of my intellectual pursuits...

    I just don't see anyone taking such an interest in this stuff unless they are born with an interest for it. Maybe you could attract some more people with better compensation/making the work sexier, but I doubt it. In Alberta, CAN, they have vast oil reserves which the oil companies make a ton on. Working for then does not require a 4 year degree, and most people come back being able to afford a house and at least one bad-ass car (Viper, Vette, BMW M) in addition to a daily driver.

    If you want to make engineering sexy, what is needed is a revamp to the way employment is done. We are essentially inventors, but we are paid hourly. Real inventors get residuals from multiple inventions. If you want to see some real creativity, change it to residuals and watch as engineers pump value into products for their ow benefit. I've added single features that I know resulted in $100k of additional sales the first year. But did I see any of that? Nope. What was my bonus? Less than 3%, before taxes. I worked on another project that was: the project lead, a doctor, a lawyer, and me. Everyone but me had an equity agreement for 10% of sales. They put in about 100 hours total, I put in 1000 hours myself, and the company still sells the product. They still see checks and don't work for the company. I don't work for the company and even when I did work for them, I never saw a check.

    When we treat engineers as vital as doctors and lawyers, we'll get a few more for the money , but only a few will be naturals.

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:18PM (#32571034)

    That's true, but it's still possible that the relative values to the company are being miscalculated. If you fired that sales guy, could some other sales guy paid half as much sell the product just as well? My guess is that often the answer is "yes".

    I don't know. I've seen some of these sales people, and listening to them, *I* was getting excited about their software and services - until I remembered that I was actually providing the customer support or had to install them, and knew exactly how much of what they were saying was utter crap. And yet, for a split-second, they had me going.

    That's the skill of a good salesman, and that's why they will always be more important than engineers to the bean counters. There's no product that will sell itself - but a good salesman can sell even a turd. And in the end, that's what's on the balance sheet: Salesman Slimeball added $1 Million to the bottom line this quarter, while Gearhead Gearloose cost the company about $200k.

    Is that kind of revenue analysis dangerous? Yes it is. Does it happen more often than it should? Yes it does. And the payout is the reason why so many people go into sales instead of engineering.

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheNarrator (200498) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:43PM (#32571400)

    Outside of computing related technologies it seems that science has really slowed down to a crawl. We haven't invented any new significant sources of energy since Nuclear fission was first developed in the 30s. We have actually gone backwards with regards to space travel, and no longer have the capabilities we once had. Lately, all the drug companies have been panicking because their best drugs are going out of patent and they don't have any new ones to replace them.

  • Re:Don't we? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DeadDecoy (877617) on Monday June 14, 2010 @04:59PM (#32571644)

    it depends on how much money they're gambling with

    and

    Otherwise, aren't investors being stupidly irrational

    go hand in hand. It's sort of like how people by lottery tickets even though the chances are astronomical that they won't win. Greed tends to make people stupid and irrational. Day traders move massive amounts of money based on the rapid input of consumption/news. This is one of the reasons google hasn't split but kept it's stock price at 400-500 and releases reports less frequently. They're trying to attract long-term investors rather than have their company directed by short term goals. Larger companies tend to not have this problem, as their sheer volume makes it hard to manipulate. If stockholders were force to make less frequent trades, the risk of losing a lot of money in the interim would go up, and they'd be more cautious about investing (hypothetically).

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Monday June 14, 2010 @05:37PM (#32572140) Homepage Journal
    Even simpler answer: the South was highly productive as agricultural land, while New England was (mostly) not. The South could produce cotton, which was incredibly valuable, while the Midwest - while very fertile land - produced mostly food crops that couldn't be turned into portable wealth. So the North had some incentives to industrialize that weren't present in the South.

    On top of that, the North had the ability to industrialize. The early Industrial Revolution depended on water power. North of New York, the fall line extends almost to the coast - so that good sources of water power were available within a short distance from the great harbors. Northern forests were mostly hardwood, not pine, suiting them for study machinery. By comparison, the comparable areas of the South were hundreds of miles from water transport. Finally, the coal and minerals were almost all in the North.

    In short, the South barely industrialized because the return on investment was considerably higher for agriculture than for industry in a place where all of the components of the industry would have to be imported. Even today, the industrial parts of the South are mostly the ones where there are resources to be exploited: oil refining and chemical manufacture on the Gulf Coast, along with chemical and manufacturing in TN/KY.

    As for slavery, after a while, Southerners started believing their own lies about slavery being good for the Negroes, and found themselves riding the tiger: when an oppressed people constitutes as much as 50% of the population of an area, it's hard to figure out a way to set them all free without the whole thing going to hell. This was gotten around in Reconstruction by having the place go to hell first, so that freeing the slaves couldn't make it much worse.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday June 14, 2010 @08:02PM (#32573518)

    Because it's unethical.

    It's one thing to take money from the stupid when they give it away willfully (such as by selling them an overpriced house, even though it's not overpriced compared to all the other comparable houses around it), it's another thing to con them into giving it to you with a pack of lies (such as telling them that giving you money will grant them God's favor).

    If you want to insult the general public because they're stupid, that's one thing. But if you're actively involved in making them stupid (by making up superstitions to con them with), then to turn around and insult them for their stupidity is inane.

    Only a sociopath would do such things.

    Finally, what's "stupid"? There's probably a bunch of astrophysicists who know (or knew, before the collapse caused "mortgage-backed securities" to become a household term) nothing about mortgage-backed securities, but can run rings around any economist when it comes to physics, advanced mathematics, etc. Modern society is about specialization; no one has the time to become experts in everything. The astrophysicist may be able to learn about mortgage-backed securities and other economic things, and then become a better investor, or a better homebuyer able to see the impending doom, but then he wouldn't have any time to do his normal job, which is astrophysics. People who do the economics jobs are supposed to do them ethically, so that society can function properly, rather than trying to cheat everyone and wreck the global economy in the process.

    When people don't do their jobs ethically, you get disasters like the Mortgage Meltdown and the BP Oil Spill, and then the "general public" gets pissed off because they're asked to pay for the clean-up, when they did their jobs to the best of their ability, even if their jobs were just cleaning toilets and greeting shoppers. This is why people who don't do these jobs ethically, causing giant disasters, should be prosecuted criminally and thrown in prison with the rapists and murderers.

  • Re:Wage Gap (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 14, 2010 @09:57PM (#32574242)

    Well spoken.

    A small anecdote:
    I am a scientist from a European country. Worked in Japan for a couple of years and wanted to return: The only jobs I can find are postdocs jobs in labs where I know I will be kicked out again in 2-4 years (most EU countries
    have job protection laws meaning they can only hire you temporarily for a couple of years, then either need to give you a real job or need to end the contract. Result: no jobs). There is no way to get a good job without some serious
    ass-linking. Some profs advised me to go to North America. But to be honest, the system there and the available jobs were just not that appealing to me. Instead I choose China.

    Now you will think I am a bit crazy, but the result is: I can have a long-term job. I got great motivated students and quite a bit of independence. My pay is shit compared to EU or US, but the living costs are quite low, so in the end, I do not loose that much on it. Getting research money is a breeze compared to the situation in Europe. There are plenty of possibilities and if you write something reasonable you can have quiet a high chance of getting it awarded. The only bad thing is that apart from my work, I (and especially my SO) do not really like the society here. Perhaps it is the contrast with Japan, or my wish to settle down and have a family in a smaller city. But I still may remain here just because the job is so nice.

    I was at a small conference with some high level PIs from several countries about China's plans in science the next couple of years. Most people are convince China will completely overwhelm the US in research within the next 10-20 years. I admit that all these people where at this conference because they believed so, but nevertheless it is a reasonable prediction. The amount of money thrown by the state here into science is absurd.

    It is rather ironically that my home country cannot create an stable work environment for higher educated people equal to that for people doing the lowest paid unskilled labour.

  • by ranton (36917) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @05:12AM (#32575918)

    Between teaching, research grants, and cleaning test tubes, grad school in the sciences will cost you $0 out of pocket for tuition, fees, rent, and food.

    That must be nice, but it's not reality where I am. I'm at a university that ranks as about #40 in most science/math/engineering rankings, and the only thing I get waived is tuition. I have to pay ~$750 in fees per year. I get about $1500/mo after tax from my stipend, and I have to pay for 100% of my rent, food, and textbooks out of that.

    You can't get a part-time job and still get a stipend, and I don't know anybody that's managed to get a "research grant" that provides them with extra money beyond the stipend for being a teaching or research assistant.

    Im confused because your post seems to be confirming the statements you are attempting to refute. The original poster said that you can fairly easily pay $0 out of pocket for tuition, fees, rent, and food. That seems to be the same situation you are in.

    $1500/mo after taxes is clearly enough to live on for a college student. That is approximately the same as $10.50/hr full-time (almost 40% above minimum wage). I lived on about $1100 quite easily in 2005 while going to college with only one roommate. Most of my friends lived with 3-4 roommates.

    Living through grad-school without alot of debt just means living with roommates, not having expensive girlfriends (ones also in college are more forgiving), and not realizing that there are cars out there worth over $3000.

    The fact is that getting paid about $1800/Mth before taxes (your approximate pay) for going to college and getting your masters / phd is a very sweet deal. Since the average public school master's program costs about $15k/yr, you are getting paid around $40k/yr right now (considering your waived tuition is non-taxed income).

  • Re:Don't we? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:46AM (#32576266) Homepage Journal

    It is simpler than that. The scientific thinkers have thought and decided what platforms they support and determined who they are going to vote for.

    The anti-science people have not, and are easily swayed by rhetoric and political theater.

    Politicians go after the easily swayed.

    Do you mean to say that "scientific thinkers" always vote Democrat? I'll admit that it seems like a lot of them do. Unfortunately, that just makes them irrelevant to the politicians. That is, when politicians view a voting block (say, "scientific thinkers" in this case) as always voting for Team R or Team D, then the issues those voters care about don't matter. Politicians know they will get those votes (or not), and it won't matter what they do or say.

    So, yes, politicians pay more attention to "swing" voters, as well as "issue" voters that don't stick to party lines. Maybe if the "scientific thinkers" tried doing a little thinking about the issues instead of trusting the platform statement of one party or another, they could have an influence in how their government is run.

    A couple of good examples:

    1. Moral majority / Christian Coalition voters became an influential voice in elections a few years back. But it didn't last long. They quickly made themselves irrelevant when politicians realized that those voters are always on Team R, so there was no reason to pay attention to their issues.
    2. The GBLT vote, even though they represent a small portion of the vote, are very influential. That's because they pay attention to issues, and will vote for candidates from either party (yes, they really do) based on how the candidate supports GBLT issues.

In the sciences, we are now uniquely priviledged to sit side by side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand. -- Gerald Holton

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